Friday, March 27, 2009


"Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned." - Oscar Wilde

When the writing is slow, I fear I’ve forgotten everything I know about how to write a book. Everything I learned in all my years with best-selling author Natalie Goldberg. Everything I learned in MFA school. Everything I have read in writing books. Everything I’ve gleaned from reading the books that I love. Everything. This might be a good thing. Perhaps I have to start from ground zero with each book and learn all over again how to write. Each book has its own rules.

A friend reminded me that what I know has been absorbed so deeply, I might not remember it. It’s in my bones. I hope she’s right. Currently it feels like I’m taking Polaroid photographs. I want a refined end product, but I want it now. I find it frustrating to wait while the image develops. Each time I go through the work, the characters become clearer, the images brighter. Only in the end will the picture be clear.

With writing, unlike Polaroids, there’s work to be done beyond swinging the thing back and forth or blowing on it hoping it will dry faster. The writer needs to stay in the book. Sometimes this means reading sections and moving things around. Since I’m still working at the macro level, I often find myself rearranging scenes and writing notes. Sometimes it means writing placeholders for scenes that need to be written or simply daydreaming about the next place my main character needs to go in order for the story to move along. The micro-edit will come later. All the while, the details of my characters become more focused.

Writing is not for the faint of heart. When I hear my heart pounding, I worry that it’s a heart attack. But writing is still the thing I love best. The picture will grow sharp if I’m willing to do the work.


Doug said...

Thank you. that was very well said!

I know I have been working on the same first few paragraphs of a family history piece for a colorful ancestor from the 17th century for two months. I want to capture her without saying the same thing the same way as what I've already read. They already said it! Thanks again.

Marie said...

There's a simple but effective phrase that I use when I become afraid of my own book:

Trust the process.

It might feel like you've forgotten everything, but that's part of the process. Eventually your novel will come together, if you keep working. Trust the process.

Mary said...

I think it is always there, it’s just knowing which computer program to bring up to find it!!!

I haven’t written anything in a while. Could it be fear of success??? Or laziness?

Nita said...

@Mary - Or fear of ink?